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basic morals - what ones are there?

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In the past week I''ve read fairy tales, african myths, and a Dr. Seuss book, and watched a VeggieTales movie. Interestingly, they all seemed to be teaching some of the same few moral lessons: don''t be overly proud, be nice to strangers and people who are different than you, agreeing to disagree is better than a feud, the golden rule, be generous, be respectful, power and wealth do not cause happiness, etc. Most of them can be summed up by saying: be nice to others because they might be able to help you later, something even chimpanzees seem to understand. The rest can be summed up as: being happy is better than being dominant - also something many apes seem to know. So, 2 questions: why do we feel the need to make children''s shows with such obvious morals? And what other really basic morals are there?

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"being happy is better than being dominant - also something many apes seem to know." ... hmm, i seem to remember something about silverbacked apes, etc. there''s /extreme/ dominance for ya.

and if you believe in darwin, everything has a natural instinct to survive and be the best. maybe we''re just trying to compensate for that. or maybe we just put so many morals in our cartoons so we won''t feel bad about setting our kids in front of the television and let barney do our parenting.

obvious morals? obvious morals because you''ve grown up being fed these same morals all of your life by society?

maybe obvious morals are along the same lines as "you expect everyone to drive down the correct side of the road," "you expect to find only mail in your mailbox," and any other number of assumptions we have so humanity runs just a little bit better. maybe these morals are implicit to everything (okay, they are. i just wanted the parallel sentence structure to help my argument along) and children''s programming, written with almost all complex and "adult" ideas stripped from them, just has these morals more exposed than what you''re used to in everyday life.

if this is the case, we don''t need to list these morals; you already know them (if you''re keeping sufficiently out of jail and all).

and to throw a gaming spin on it, to make it semi-relavent... nevermind, i can''t do that. there''s really nothing to discuss because either a game doesn''t include them at all, like doom, or it comes off as trite, childrens'' programming-like writting in games like chrono trigger.


morals are funny things. i tend not to worry too much about them. (just like comedians)

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It isn''t only childrens shows... have you ever seen Walker Texas Ranger? 7th Heaven?... these shows are so predictable because you know that the good guys always win. Here in Sydney, Walker gets a 2:00am timeslot ... but I tape it anyway because it is so funny to watch.

It could possibly be just because they don''t want to shock viewers: "hey, that guy was nice but he got killed by the mean bad guy", which is possibly to upsetting for the younger viewers. Although I wouldn''t know a thing about that kind of psychology so I could be wrong.

There is also the way that telling someone in authority is the best option, like telling the teacher that Bobby stole your lunch kind of thing.

Trying is the first step towards failure.

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quote:
Original post by fosborb
"being happy is better than being dominant - also something many apes seem to know." ... hmm, i seem to remember something about silverbacked apes, etc. there's /extreme/ dominance for ya.


That's a pretty black-and-white view. There's ONE dominant ape, and the others all leave him alone. The reason: it's better to be content than to go through the hassle of trying to assert that you are the "best" in a very limited set of things. The rest of the apes are perfectly content to have the "order" imposed on them. It also grants responsibilities onto the Silverback that most other apes would rather not be involved with.

You talked about Darwin:
quote:
everything has a natural instinct to survive and be the best

What defines "best"? Nobody really knows, and there is quite possibly no true definition of "best". That's where morals come in. Gathering the entire culture around a similar definition of "best", so that the entire culture/community has the best chance to survive. Individual survival is NOT a goal of most species, it's species survival they go for. Dismissing morality as unimportant is irresponsible, because you are taxing species survival. Species have a tendency to weed out those individuals that put their good above the good of the rest of the community.




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

Edited by - MadKeithV on June 11, 2001 4:38:54 AM

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There''s too many people on this small planet.
We need a large set of morals to at least try and keep the majority of them at peace.

That group of apes can do with a pretty small set of morals.
Do whatever number 1 says.
Don''t hurt any of the group.

You better believe they all do what number 1 says, or they''ll get punished for it. And they won''t hurt any of the group, because the group is so small and they''ll be surely found out if they do hurt one of their own.

The life of the ape is pretty simple as well. Eat, drink, procreate, relax and sleep. To eat/drink, they go to wherever food/water is. The rest of the day they can spend doing the rest of their things. Make a bed where you are and sleep in it.

Now to human beings. Instead of just 10-20, there are 5 billion of us. We''re all divided into large groups, where usually we have a number 1. But number 1 usually doesn''t really have all that much power (in democratic societies at least). The power has been distributed downward to a lot of other people.

But, when one of the members of a group hurts someone else, they''re not bound to be found out. The group is simply too large.

As the action=reaction simply does not apply for this large group of human beings, they have to start teaching their young a large set of morals and standards.

In this day and age parents aren''t really all that proficient at this: do YOU know how to teach a kid morals and standards?

It seems like it''s a lost art. So, let''s take the next best thing. Let''s let TV teach our children morals and standards. Easy. Just put your kid in front of a tv and let them learn all they need to know from there. All the parent needs to do is look at the rating of the tv show and maybe watch it with the kid once to know what the show is like. That''ll save the parent a lot of time, time that can be spent working to make more money, to be able to give the child a better future (I disagree with this as I think it''s more important to give your child a good emotional future than a good material one).

Television is all about money. Tv shows are being produced to be seen, so that the owner of the channel can charge companies large sums of money for advertising.

Since the networks know that parents like television to teach their children morals, they''ve all included these morals in their shows.

That''s the way I see it. I don''t know if this is all really bad (who knows, maybe tv is a better teacher than a parent) but I just can''t imagine that a tv is a place for children to learn morals. Because once they establish tv as a teacher, they just might also learn things from it that we DON''t want them to learn. If they learn to appreciate all beings from their early morning cartoon... will they also learn to hate their fellow beings from watching Jerry Springer later on? (and no matter how many chips you put into a tv, kids will find a way to watch the ''forbidden'', especially if they really like tv)

So, to answer the original two questions:

1) Why so many children shows with obvious morals?
Answer: makes more money for the tv channel, because parents want the tv to be somewhat of a morality teacher. Either because they figure ''hey, my kid watches tv anyway, might as well teach it while it''s watching'' or because they figure ''man, I''m tired, I''ll just pop my kid in front of the tv and let him learn life''s lessons that way''.

2) What other basic morals are there?
Answer: there''s a moral for every vice, every bad behaviour you can come up with. The worse the world is, the more morals you''ll have to teach your children. If you think about it, it''s absurd that we even have to teach our children to respect all other humans and not to hate them. That should be the standard to START from, not a goal to strife for.

From a gaming perspective, I say dump morals. Don''t create morals as a designer, because those morals will be created by the player community in your game.

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darwin and silverback males (there''s still competition to be the best, guys... don''t you watch pbs?) were included as examples to refute the sweeping generalities of the post before, not as examples of which the conversation should be based. "to be the best," is a general statement that didn''t neccesarily mean "individual best," but i still think the statement holds true, in darwin''s eyes. sorry for the confusion. we could probably move off of that point.

oh, while i''m still off topic, i tend not to worry about morals because i don''t see a direct way of changing them. sure, if i gradually change my philosophy of life, my morals will gradually change with it, but i can''t just go "okay, i''ll change this moral." it''s a temporary bandaid, and something many religious people do after a particularily well written sermon and end up forgetting about it a few minutes after they leave the church.


begin topical discussion:

silvermyst, way to elaborate on my poorly sketched arguements. thank you. (i always forget that people can''t jump to my conclusions... that i have to explain how i got there) however, if including morals in childrens programming was just a financial concern, what would be left of the cartoon if they didn''t? there needs to be a plot, and the main characters need to make decisions. to not follow the obviously "right" way as dictated by society brings up many questions and ideas that a child of 4, who still thinks poo pooing in the toilet is a pretty neat idea, might not be able to grasp.

but the day care phenomenon is pretty new, in the history of entertainment. /all/ stories have some moral element to them, it just depends how masked it is. morality is just the reasons why we chose when presented with options of a fairly cerebral nature. i mean, everything has a message because a plot, where no one made a choice, would be quite boring indeed. (and even then the existential writings have a philosophy to them that, if followed, dictates certain responses to moral questions.)


of course, these are all just crazy sweeping generalities.

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quote:

Original post by Sylvermist
We''re all divided into large groups, where usually we have a number 1. But number 1 usually doesn''t really have all that much power (in democratic societies at least).



And who might be that number 1, the most powerful in the world ? *lol* Are you thinking maybe of the President of the United States of America ?!

quote:

Original post by MadKeithV
That''s a pretty black-and-white view. There''s ONE dominant ape, and the others all leave him alone. The reason: it''s better to be content than to go through the hassle of trying to assert that you are the "best" in a very limited set of things. The rest of the apes are perfectly content to have the "order" imposed on them. It also grants responsibilities onto the Silverback that most other apes would rather not be involved with.



*LOL* I actually considered rolling on the floor loughing a bit so I could write *ROFL*. Or buying a cat so I can write *ROFLSTC*

From your post I understand that the monkeys fight not because they all want to be the leader, but because they all want to live in peace, and the poor looser of the fight is forced to be the leader (and get all the females, all the best food, etc.).


quote:

Individual survival is NOT a goal of most species, it''s species survival they go for.



This is so true. Not a moral thing, but a harsh fact of life. That is the reason why NO individuals are immortal (nature could have done that easily if it wanted to). A species survival can only be achieved by evolution. The rules of evolution (survival of the fittest, mutations that can succeed or mostly fail, etc.) are so unforgiving that the Christians deny evolution altogether, unable to accept that their moral god imposed such rules on the human specie. And if we thought coldly about it, great achievements like antibiotics are actually a hindrance to evolution, and ultimately threaten the survival of the specie. (Just think about genetic algorithms.) However I and most of the people seem to care more about our person wellfare than the survival of the specie or evolution.



quote:

Original post by sunandshadow
Most of them can be summed up by saying: be nice to others because they might be able to help you later, something even chimpanzees seem to understand. The rest can be summed up as: being happy is better than being dominant - also something many apes seem to know.



Well, the fact that monkeys prefer happiness over power may be the reason why we own the world and they get locked in circus cages and in zoos and are used for medical experiments. Although from my Discovery Channel knowledge, the only specie naive enough to (claim to?) think higher of happiness than of dominance are humans.

quote:

And what other really basic morals are there?



To put it in Nietzsche''s terms, there are two kinds of morals : slave morals and master morals.

The first center around the ideas of freedom, community, solidarity, tolerance, helping each other. (Christians and post Christians are a good example).

The latter value their ancestors, the older people, traditions, hierarchy, family bindings, they follow strict honor codes, they respect power and authority and are quite insensitive to other peoples suffering (the Japanese samurai, the Jews of the Old Testament, the ancient Greeks and Romans at the peek of their civilisations, the fremens from Dune).

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quote:
Original post by Diodor
From your post I understand that the monkeys fight not because they all want to be the leader, but because they all want to live in peace, and the poor looser of the fight is forced to be the leader (and get all the females, all the best food, etc.).



Well then you should definately learn to read more closely:
I meant that apes (they are not monkeys) do NOT fight because it''s not worth the hassle. The SilverBack ape is the one that through past evolution has been decided to have the best set of genes for species survival. The only way to assert that set is through physical dominance (because physical strength was an important factor in ape survival the past few million years). The other apes instinctively "know" this to be true (well they actually don''t know diddley, but they won''t challenge the view because they have hereditarily accepted the order).
This, is what "morality" is in the context of apes. A set of rules to live by that make life easier or easiest for species-survival. Unfortunately for apes, their morality is based on genetics, and they are therefore not quite quick enough to adapt to new circumstances (i.e. us).


Your argument about antibiotics is completely off. By claiming that you discard the last few thousand years of human growth: we''ve gone way beyond physical strength in the human race. Physical strength is no longer a measure of how "good" you are for the survival of the species. The one thing that sets us apart most widely from all other species is our brain. That particular brain is perfectly good even if the rest of your body is perfectly worthless (Stephen Hawking). That''s why human morals have adapted to include such things as "the right to live", "social security", a nice pension, etc etc. Many physically less-able people, including most scientists, would never be able to assert themselves in a mostly physical society, and therefore their genetic material would be lost.
The species does not want to lose this material at all (and humans are actually smart enough to realise it).



People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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quote:
Original post by MadKeithV
The species does not want to lose this material at all (and humans are actually smart enough to realise it).



The human species obviously does not include the people who write up advertisements.

i think we tend to reward those of physical prowness and piddly brains. sure, we give lots of money and degrees and thingies to the really smart people, but do we give them some varied genetic material to jackhammer away at (or be jackhammered by)? no, smart people marry and breed more smart people, and on and on it goes until we get virtual stagnation in the smart side of the gene pool, while the guys who pack into gyms and nice little swedish blondes all marry each other stagnate the crazed "idyllic" side of our gene pool.

the non-extremes get left to muck about in the kiddie pool. the kiddie pool with pee in it. kiddie pee.

Edited by - fosborb on June 12, 2001 3:55:56 AM

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Hehe.. it''s an interesting topic, but unfortunately too far off-topic for the Game Design forum now. I''ll give it a few more messages. If they are related to game design, it can stay. Otherwise I''ll either close it or move it to the Lounge.

I won''t be taking part in the discussion anymore, ''cause it''s kinda my fault it drifted so far off-topic.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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quote:

Original post by MadKeithV
Well then you should definately learn to read more closely:
I meant that apes (they are not monkeys) do NOT fight because it''s not worth the hassle. The SilverBack ape is the one that through past evolution has been decided to have the best set of genes for species survival. The only way to assert that set is through physical dominance (because physical strength was an important factor in ape survival the past few million years). The other apes instinctively "know" this to be true (well they actually don''t know diddley, but they won''t challenge the view because they have hereditarily accepted the order).
This, is what "morality" is in the context of apes. A set of rules to live by that make life easier or easiest for species-survival. Unfortunately for apes, their morality is based on genetics, and they are therefore not quite quick enough to adapt to new circumstances (i.e. us).



I am at a disadvantage here, not knowing the exact difference betwen apes and monkeys and not knowing their exact habits. But I do know that no specie has ruled out competition. Their "moralities" are more like rules of engagement than peace treaties. From the information presented here I understand that for the SilverBack apes the monkeys dont challenge the position of the leader. I agree that this is their moral code, basicly, they dont fight all the time because fighting too much would weaken the whole group.

But that doesnt mean that they dont want to be the leader and they wouldnt try to be if they felt they stood a chance. Nor that they are perfectly content with their position in the group.


quote:

Your argument about antibiotics is completely off.



Thats what I keep telling myself


quote:

By claiming that you discard the last few thousand years of human growth: we''ve gone way beyond physical strength in the human race. Physical strength is no longer a measure of how "good" you are for the survival of the species. The one thing that sets us apart most widely from all other species is our brain. That particular brain is perfectly good even if the rest of your body is perfectly worthless (Stephen Hawking). That''s why human morals have adapted to include such things as "the right to live", "social security", a nice pension, etc etc. Many physically less-able people, including most scientists, would never be able to assert themselves in a mostly physical society, and therefore their genetic material would be lost.
The species does not want to lose this material at all (and humans are actually smart enough to realise it).



Although we may disagree a bit about how important physical strength is (not really brute muscle force, but resistance to diseases, to polutants, to fast food is still very usefull), I agree that the mind is very important too. In some cases, like you mentioned, it completely outweighs the physical part.

What I''ll argue is that human morals are not based on such simple logic as "everyone has a right to live, because he may turn out to be a genious and help society". It''s plain wrong to base moral belief on top of a logic foundation, when it should be the other way around. I can always come up with logic reasons for highly imoral decisions, especially when the rules of evolution come into play. It is simple obvious logic that killing retarded people and freeing the place for new, potentialy smart and healthy people will improve our chances of survival. The problem with logic is it can be flawed, even when it seems obviously true. I can rely on my morals to say "Yeah, this looks like the truth. So what ? I dont like it and thats the way it will stay !" and throw away such horrible ideas.

It is not a crime to be mistaken. It is a crime to not follow your moral code. Ie. believing in conspiracy theories is acceptable, blowing people up with bombs is not.


Well, actually, as history proved, there is a logic reason why eugenics do not improve chances of survival. If a system that is allowed to take life and death decisions would be created, that system will soon take decisions that will increase its own chances of survival (like wiping out other races, etc.), and these in turn may lead to war and devastation way beyond the so called benefits of the system.

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Morals are actually a pretty big factor in computer games.

At least, people who claim to be moral want to have a pretty big saying in what computer games should be like.

Computer games are already blamed for corrupting the minds of children, and of course incidents like the Columbine shooting are happening because kids are playing ''Doom'' etc.

Let''s not forget that children see their parents fight, see bad things happen on television, see bad things happen in their neighbourhood. And they see this all without parental guidance.

I was surprised that in the US, a country that I thought would actually have stricter measures for what''s on tv than back in Holland -where I grew up- I saw people slain on the street on the 6 pm news. I''m not sure I ever saw images like that on the Dutch television. Not sure what exactly this will do to a child''s mind, but it causes me to wonder why certain things aren''t allowed on network broadcasting, while others, perhaps much worse to a child''s mind, are.

I don''t think that there''s a programmer out there who will consciously choose to create a game that will teach the wrong morals. I''m not even too sure that computer games teach morals at all. Same for television shows. Do they really teach morals? Did you follow Superman''s footsteps after reading his comics? Did you stand up for the weak, defend the innocent? Or did you get your morals and standards elsewhere?

Should you as a programmer even stop to think about including the right morals in your game? Or at least avoid putting ''bad'' morals into a game? And who decides what''s good and bad? In Holland, sex was treated much more liberal than it is here in the States. Is that good or is that bad? What does it do to a society? Marijuana is another highly debated subject. It''s okay to use in Holland, but what does it really do to a society? If your main hero in your game smokes pot, will the children who play the game try it, even though it''s illegal? Will you educate them about it, or will you tempt them?

Think of the last game you played and see if you can find some type of moral, be it in plain sight or hidden. Was it about good fighting evil? Or maybe it was about the strong defeating the weak. Are children, or even adults, affected by these somewhat obscure messages?

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Why do you campare Ape innate behavior to morals? The dominance hierarchy was favored by natural selection for some reason or another. It has nothing to do with morals! Morals are just society''s way of staying alive. Without them society would destroy itself. And, I believe, some small secluded ones HAVE destroyed themselves because of a lack of moral standards. Polygamy is immoral because if it were not society would die. Why? AIDS, and other STDs. Violence is immoral because everybody would kill everybody else! Marijuana is illegal because prejudiced people in the southwest US were afraid of those mexican immigrants, and many smoked marijuana. There are problems with marijuana, just like Tobacco. Damn smokers, can''t they be content with alcohol?

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quote:
Original post by Silvermyst
Are children, or even adults, affected by these somewhat obscure messages?


A single drop of water falls on your forehead. "No problem," you say, "that wasn't too bad." About ten drop. "Okay," you admit, "it's getting a tad annoying." After a few thousand you go crazy and your head caves in.


quote:
Original post by Silvermyst
Will you educate them about marijuana, or will you tempt them?



I still contend that morals deal with the instantaneous decision, not overall states of mind. By teaching a kid about pot you're not affecting his morals directly, but you might have a posibility of changing something a little higher level... his enviromental outlook, we'll call it. it's the difference between impulses and philosophies.

this outlook on life determines what his morals are, sure, but it affects so much more than just "do i smoke pot?" looking at someone's outlook, analyzing it, and showing alternatives is , i feel, a worthwhile endeavor of games... of all art. morals, written in, are immature. let what you want to say as a game designer flow. if that's changed, your result is a corperate product, if not, it has a chance of actually being considered art.

Edited by - fosborb on June 12, 2001 4:40:25 PM

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Wow, this topic has gone a long way since I started it. Well, nobody has mentioned meme theory yet, so I guess I''ll start there.

C-Junkie asks, "Why compare innate ape behavior to morals?" Ape behaviors evolve to keep ape societies alive. Human morals evolve to keep human societies alive. Ape behaviors are determined mostly by genetics and human behaviors have large social overlays that in some ways cooperate with, and in some ways contradict, our own innate ape behavior. These social overlays are made out of ideas (called memes, from the Greek mimeme meaning an act of mimicry). Memes are transmitted through stories (e.g. those told by computer games) and observed behavior (e.g. what your parens and friends do). Humans are constantly exposed to new memes, and they can choose (more or less) which ones to believe in. Generally they choose those memes that seem to make their believers happy and prosperous. The non-genetic nature of memes allows a memetic system of morals to evolve much faster than a genetic system of morals. And faster evolution is by definition more effective. FMI read Blackmore''s _The Meme Machine_

Okay, enough lecture. My reason for asking this question in the first place is that it seems to me that stories which have a primordial moral seem to be more popular and enduring than stories that don''t. (E.g. Dr. Seuss) And I thought we should take this into account in our computer game design.

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I posted a few messages back that this thread would have to get on topic or be moved to the lounge - this is not the place to discuss morals generally, but only in the context of game design.

It''s not a bad discussion, but it doesn''t really belong here the way it''s going.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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no, no, this can be game related... yeah...

let's assume that morals are indication of a deeper attitude toward life, and that this attitude is recognized by a certain company - let's call them "Zion Entertainment" - and feels the constant moral choices presented in the gaming world (shoot zombie or shoot barrel, kill lots of zombies, and a kid or two) do not reflect the philosophical and religious alignment of their main demographic: overzealous and protective parents.

well, not all overzealous and protective parents are idiots, and they see that their kids would rather play golden eye than the crap they buy from Zion. the parents are complaining to the company, and they are asking you, as game designer, to make the complaining stop.

how would you transform the current religious game "market," or any game trying to adhere to a certain set of beliefs and standards different from general society, to something that is actually fun to play with all of the moral messages of that religion seamlessly embedded in your content? how would you capture the young demographic with a game that presents moral choices unlike the general gaming market?

is it possible to represent anything so radically different without it appearing that you're trying to shove morality down the player's throat?

Edited by - fosborb on June 13, 2001 3:38:12 AM

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quote:

Original post by sunandshadow
Okay, enough lecture. My reason for asking this question in the first place is that it seems to me that stories which have a primordial moral seem to be more popular and enduring than stories that don''t. (E.g. Dr. Seuss) And I thought we should take this into account in our computer game design.




I disagree that the stories that are so obviously created to justify one moral or another can be entertaining. As soon as you realise who the good guys are, the story gets too predictable. The best stories raise moral questions, or even shatter old morals altogether. My example of such story is the Dune series. Those books have some absolutely chilling moral conclusions. And they were so popular.


Coming back to games, I feel the vast majority of them try to put the player in situations where one moral or another do not apply. The moral story in the background is just a cover-up.

Indeed, the purpose of each moral is to stop individuals from doing things they _wanted_ to do but would hurt others. Games are here to remove such interdictions. Thats why so many games revolve around killing, stealing, war, gaining power, playing god, using NPC people as toys, etc. Noone pays attention to the moral story behind the game. They just use it to justify the breaking of morals involved by the gameplay. "I killed 1000 goblins, but I did it for saving the world" bah



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Perhaps some of the previous posts have come close to the point I want to make, but I''d like to put it in red, bold lettering (well bold lettering at least) so that it stands out.

Perhaps a good game that hinges on morality, would be one that makes you question your morals.

What about games that seem to present easy moral choices that go completely wrong? One that doesn''t try to teach you morals, but tries to teach you to think for yourself instead of relying blindly on the morality imposed on you by society and religion?


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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